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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 20 January 2019

Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week to place spotlight on real environmental change, says minister

The UAE has ambitious plans to cut the carbon footprint of its power generation by 70 per cent in the next three decades

Carbon emissions from industry contribute to rising temperatures, which in turn damages the natural environment, wildlife, food sources and is linked to extreme weather events. AP
Carbon emissions from industry contribute to rising temperatures, which in turn damages the natural environment, wildlife, food sources and is linked to extreme weather events. AP

Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week will focus on real advances that will have a positive impact on climate change, the UAE's environment minister has said.

Dr Thani Al Zeyoudi, Minister of Environment and Climate Change, said there is a need to transform what is being talked about "into real environmental projects".

He also said that sustainability should not be seen as unaffordable.

The minister was speaking ahead of a series of events brought under the banner of Sustainability Week running from January 14 to 19.

That includes the World Future Energy Summit, the Zayed Sustainability Prize and the Women in Sustainability, Environment and Renewable Energy (Wiser) event.

At least 10 presidents and heads of states, 180 ministers and vice ministers, and 3,000 delegates and experts from around the world are expected to attend, organisers said.

The annual event is the first since the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in October warned rising global temperatures are heading for 3°C above pre-industrial levels – far beyond the 1.5°C target.

Rising temperatures are affecting fish stocks and other food sources and threatening the survival of mangroves and coral reefs. It is also linked to extreme weather events and is forecast to impact on tourism.

Dr Al Zeyoudi said there is a need to ensure data evolves to allow decision-makers to keep up with change, which is "very crucial for the next decade".

There have been new additions to this year’s event, including the expansion of the Irena General Assembly from two days to four.

“A new thing we are bringing this year is the involvement of financial institution experts,” said the minister.

“For the last ten years we have been focusing on the private sector and financial [institutions] to make sure we are communicating with the right people and in a language they understand.”

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UAE public figures will issue a call for action under the hashtag #WeAreCommitted, aiming to stimulate further debate and action beyond ADSW 2019.

The campaign invites members of the public to adopt more sustainable lifestyles and showcase them using the hashtag.

The Emirates aims to reduce the carbon footprint of its power generation by 70 per cent and to save Dh700 billion over the next 30 years, Mohammad Al Falasi, undersecretary of Abu Dhabi’s Department of Energy, said at the preview on Monday.

“The department aims to facilitate the sharing of knowledge, expertise and experience between ADSW conference participants, and assist in promoting the latest technologies, especially digital and smart innovations."

This year’s sustainability week will also explore how digitalisation and technology is converging to drive economic growth.

It will do so by focusing on six main areas: energy and climate change, water, future mobility, space, biotechnology and 'tech for good'.

Dr Thani bin Ahmed Al Zeyoudi at the launch of ab ecotourism project in Ras Al Khaimah. Chris Whiteoak / The National
Dr Thani bin Ahmed Al Zeyoudi at the launch of an ecotourism project in Ras Al Khaimah. Chris Whiteoak / The National

The ministry said it will continue to involve the youth in discussions, and provide an innovative platform where young people and entrepreneurs are encouraged to bring in their ideas.

ADSW 2019 will include the second edition of Clix – a platform that gives young innovators the chance to “develop winning environmental concepts through leveraging cutting-edge tech for the benefit of our planet," said the minister.

During Clix 2018, investors expressed their intent to invest US$17.5 million (Dh64m) in the innovations that were unveiled in the first year. In addition, they offered to invest US$45.5m over three years.

Dr Al Zeyoudi said a couple of projects are already being sponsored and implemented.

“This year we are expecting to give US$20m to support those projects from around the world.”

Clix 2019 has received more than 811 submissions, out of which 48 applicants — nine of them Emirati — were chosen to display their innovations on stage.

“There is no doubt that Clix 2019 is going be bigger and better,” he said.

Sustainability week will conclude with The Festival at Masdar City. It will include a weekend of family entertainment activities that raise environmental awareness.

Activities will focus on seven thematic zones: the Energy Cluster, Sustainability Cluster, Water and Agriculture Cluster, Urban Community, Market Place, Main Stage, and Masdar Park.

Updated: January 13, 2019 10:09 PM

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